Wasatch Wilderness: Engelmann Spruce (Picea engelmannii Parry ex Engelm)

WASATCH MOUNTAINS, Utah – Engelmann Spruce (Picea engelmannii Parry ex Engelm) is an evergreen tree native to Utah. The species is named after the 19th-century botanist and physician George Engelmann. The tree is an essential source of lumber in Utah and makes prized pianos and violins. Native Americans used various parts of the tree for many purposes; the bark for canoes, baskets, roofing, needles, and boughs for cleansers and incense, and the roots for ropes.

Engelmann Spruce Bark and Needles. Photo: Ashley Brown.

The large tree grows slowly, reaching its mature height, 80 to 100 feet tall, around 150 years, and can live for over 400 years. The stiff, sharp, pointed dark blue or green needles are about 1 inch long. The bark is purplish-brown or gray with ragged or diamond-shaped scales. The cones are 1 ½-2 ½ inches long with irregular-toothed and long-winged seeds. Deer and bighorn sheep eat the twigs, and squirrels and grouse eat the seeds.

Engelmann Spruce thrives in high and cold forest environments in moist, rich, and deep soil between 1,200-8,000 feet.

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